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I shall hereafter tell you what faith is, which is to receive Christ, and to believe in his name: but that will require a more particular explication. And on that I shall enter the next time.
EPH. CHAP. I. ver. 13.
In whom ye also trusted after that ye heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation, in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.
THE last time I entered on the declaration of that main point, and part of religion, which is the foundation of all our hopes and comfort, namely, the offering of Christ unto us; that as he did offer himself a sacrifice to his Father for us upon the cross, so that which is the basis, ground and foundation of our comfort is, that he offereth himself unto us. And here comes in that gracious gift of the Father which closes in with God: that as God saith, "To us a child is born, to us a son is given:" So there is grace given us to receive him. And as the greatest gift doth not enrich a man, unless he accept it, and receive it; so this is our case, God offers his Son unto us, as an earnest of his love: if we will not receive him, we cannot be the better for him: if we refuse him, and turn God's commodity, which he offers us, back upon his hand, then God storms, and his wrath abides on us for evermore. That it is his good pleasure that we should receive Christ, it is no doubt, we have his word for it: all the point is, how we may receive him, and that is by faith.
And in this text is declared, how faith is wrought, and that is by the word of truth; "In whom also you trusted, after you had heard the word of truth." Now after this faith, there cometh a sealing by the Spirit of God; “In whom also, after you believed, you were sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise." Now lest a man should through ignorance and indiscretion, be misled and deceived, there
is faith, and there is feeling. Where this is not feeling I mean, I say not, that there is no faith; no: for feeling is an after thing, and comes after faith. If we have faith, we live by it; " But after you believed, you were sealed." You see then faith is that, whereby we receive Jesus Christ; "And to as many as received him, to them he gave power to become the sons of God, to as many as believe on his name." The blood of Christ is that which cureth our souls, but, as I told you, it is by application. A medicine heals not by being prepared, but being applied: so, the blood of Christ shed for us, unless applied to us, doth us no good. In Heb. chap. XII. it is called "The blood of sprinkling:" and that in the fifty-first Psalm, hath relation to it, where he saith, "Purge me with hyssop." In the Passover there was blood to be shed, not to be spilt, but to be shed: and then to be gathered up again, and put into a basin, and when they had so done, they were to take a bunch of hyssop and dip and sprinkle, &c. Faith is this bunch of hyssop that dips itself, as it were, into the basin of Christ's blood, and our souls are purged by being sprinkled with it. In Leviticus there was a bird to escape alive; but see the preparation for it: "You shall take it, and the scarlet, and the cedar wood, and the hyssop, and shall dip them, and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed, &c. And then you shall sprinkle on him that is to be cleansed from the leprosy, seven times, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose into the open field." We are thus let loose, cleansed, and freed, but how? Unless we are dipped, as the living bird was in the blood of the dead bird, there is no escaping, unless we are dipped in the blood of Jesus Christ, this dead bird, and sprinkled with this hyssop, we cannot be freed.
So that now to come to that great matter, without which Christ profiteth us nothing, which is faith. The well is deep, and this is the bucket with which we must draw. This is the hand by which we must put on Christ: "As"
b Galat. chap. 3. ver. 27.
a Levit. chap. 14. ver. 6.
many as are baptized put on Christ." Thus must we be made ready: we must be thus clothed upon, and by this hand attire ourselves with the sun of righteousness. Wherefore I declared unto you that this faith must not be a bare conceit, floating in the brain; not a device of our own. The Devil taking hold on this, would soon lead a man into a fool's paradise. To say I am God's child, and sure I shall be saved, I am persuaded so; this the Devil would say amen to, and would be glad to rock men asleep in such conceits. Such are like the foolish virgins, "that went to buy oil for their lamps;" and were persuaded they should come soon enough to enter with the bridegroom; but their persuasion was groundless, and they were shut out. So such groundless persuasions and assurances in a man's soul, that he is the child of God, and shall go to heaven, is not faith; thou mayest carry this assurance to hell with thee: this faith is not faith; "for faith comes by hearing," and that not of every word or fancy, but by hearing the word of truth. Faith must not go a jot further than the word of God goeth. If thou hast an apprehension, but no warrant for it out of the word of God, it is not faith, for it is said, "After you heard the word of truth you believed." So that we must have some ground for it out of the word of truth, otherwise it is presumption, mere conceits, fancy, and not faith.
Now I shewed unto you the last time, how this might be; for while a man is an unbeliever, he is wholly defiled with sin, he is in a most loathsome condition; he is in his blood, filthy, and no eye pities him. And may one fasten comfort on one in such a condition, on a dead man? And this I shewed you was our case: when faith comes to us, it finds no good thing in us, it finds us stark naked, and stark naught yet there is a word for all this to draw us unto Christ, from that miserable ocean in which we are swimming unto perdition, if God catch us not in his net. Hearken we therefore to God's call: there is such a thing
c Malac. chap. 4. ver. 2.
as this calling. God calls thee and would change thy condition, and therefore offers thee his Son. Wilt thou have my Son? Wilt thou yield unto me? Wilt thou be reconciled unto me? Wilt thou come unto me? And this may be preached to the veriest rebel that is. It is the only word whereby faith is wrought. It is not by finding such and such things in us beforehand; no, God finds us as bad as bad may be, when he proffers Christ unto us. He finds us ugly and filthy, and afterwards washes us, and makes us good. It is not because I found this or that good thing in thee, that I give thee interest in my Son, take it not on this ground. No, he loved us first, and when we were defiled he washed us from our sins in his own bloodd. Now there is a double love of God towards his creatures.
1. Of commiseration.
2. Of complacency.
That of commiseration is a fruit of love which tenders and pities the miserable state of another.
But now there is another love of complacency, which ariseth from a likeness between the qualities and manners of persons, for like will to like: and this love God never hath but to his saints after conversion, when they have his image enstamped in them, and are reformed in their understandings and wills, resembling them in both, then, and not till then bears he this love towards them. Before, he loves them with the love of pity: and so God loved the world, that is, with the love of commiseration, that he sent his only Son, that whosoever believed in him might not perish, but have everlasting life. And therefore he said in the prophet Isaiah: "In his love and in his pity he redeemed them."
Now we come to the point of acceptation: the word is free, and it requires nothing but what may consist with the freest gift that may be given. Although here be something that a man may startle at.
OBJ. Is there not required a condition of faith, and a condition of obedience?
d Rev. chap. 1. ver. 5.
Chap. 63. ver. 9.